Career Path

Mover and shaker

by Grace Chan

Leslie Chu, general manager
Taiwan, Hong Kong & Macao
Microsoft Online Services Group
Photo: Edde Ngan

An individual alone cannot guarantee business success, but a person with the ability to inspire teamwork can move mountains.

One such leader is Leslie Chu, general manager, Taiwan, Hong Kong & Macao, Microsoft Online Services Group. It took Mr Chu only four years to increase Microsoft (MSN) Hong Kong's revenues five-fold and to transform MSN Messenger into a sought-after lifestyle brand.

"What I do is to simply maximise the potential of every member of staff and to make sure everyone is on the same page while developing a sense of job satisfaction. This, in turn, ensures my own," says Mr Chu.

Sophisticated messenger

A top man in the field, Mr Chu's working week consists of three days in Taiwan and two in Hong Kong, channelling company business strategies and objectives to staff in the two regions while also communicating with the US headquarters on a regular basis.

Over the past four years, his team's key focus has been to market MSN messenger as a consumer-centric product, rather than just an IT service. "IT products today are not about technology. For instance, a consumer may buy a computer because it is fashionable, whereas IT professionals tend to prioritise functionality. Whenever we develop or upgrade a service, we keep the users in mind."

This approach has been highly successful, as proven by the rapid growth in MSN user numbers. "In only six months, Hong Kong MSN users doubled to 800,000, reaching 1.2 million a year later," he says.

After starting in Hong Kong, Mr Chu's role was expanded to include Macau in 2007. In mid-2008 he also took Taiwan on board. While his marketing strategies remained unaltered, he endeavoured to accommodate the needs of more than 10 million users at this point.

"Earlier this year, we launched a special crossover MSN novelty T-shirt in Taiwan, designed by the popular local band Mayday. All 1,000 T-shirts, at NT$1,000 a piece, were sold out in two days," Mr Chu remarks.

That particular marketing campaign was successful in bringing in revenue, he says, adding that such offline marketing activities help to immerse MSN in users' daily lives and reach non-users simultaneously.

"Whenever we develop or upgrade a service, we keep the users in mind"

True passion

An impressive academic background plus previous work experience provided Mr Chu with a solid foundation, but it is his outstanding leadership style and strong business and marketing sense that landed him his current job.

After graduating in marketing from Wollongong University in Australia, he started his career marketing credit cards at the International Bank of Asia (currently Fubon Bank).

He notes that he has always been passionate about IT. "Years ago, when email was not so much in the public domain, I built my own website," he recalls. "This caught the attention of the bank's senior vice president, who then assigned me to take charge of the online marketing campaign for a credit card specifically targeted at women." After working for the bank for nearly five years, Mr Chu embarked on his IT journey around the time of the 1998 boom.

Over the following four years, he worked for a number of big-name companies, including, Lycos Asia and Yahoo!, where his job skills expanded from web design to marketing and business development.

"Although I only stayed with Lycos Asia for a short time, I worked on various acquisitions and integrations in Greater China. It was an enriching experience," he says.

Shortly after that, Mr Chu joined China Light Power's new e-commerce division, where he stayed for a year until he was "spotted" by MSN Hong Kong in 2004. "My previous experiences have exposed me to extensive training and people networks," he remarks.

Change and challenge

The online business model has been evolving constantly since the turn of the millennium. "MSN Hong Kong initially drew its revenues from subscription fees, but this changed over the past few years and almost 80 per cent of our revenue is now drawn from advertising," Mr Chu explains.

Understanding the business model and getting the positioning strategies right are fundamental for growth, he adds.

MSN Hong Kong recently formed a partnership with to launch MyTV for MSN users, who can watch five television channels provided by on WLM (Windows Live Messenger) 9.0. "There are no permanent leaders in the IT world," Mr Chu points out. "To stay ahead of the competition, we must innovate and provide value-added services."

With advertising revenues inevitably shrinking, the current economic downturn has brought new challenges. "In good times, most advertisers opt for television as their preferred advertising media. But with smaller budgets, some will now turn their attention to online platforms. MSN will benefit from this in the long run," he concludes.

Taken from Career Times 10 July 2009, p. A12
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